The Communication of Flowers and Carotenoids (that stuff that turns the leaves orange)

November 17, 2010

Roses and a daisy from the garden

Well, this may make me sound like a crazy woman, but sometimes my garden communicates with me. I’m a very skeptical person by nature, so I totally understand that this assertion is, on so many levels, rather absurd. But whatever. If you don’t believe me you might find that your garden will talk to you if you learn how to listen. Maybe you already listen. Or maybe not. Maybe your garden is the quiet type. My point is that my garden produced three really beautiful flowers this week: two perfect red roses and one daisy. That silly rose bush had done nothing the whole growing season, and then all of a sudden those two beautiful roses appear. One would think the frost would have killed them all off, but that’s what I love about flower gardens: they’ll surprise you.

So, what was my garden saying exactly? Well, now that I don’t know. It speaks in metaphors, so there is a lot of room for interpretation. I’ve decided that reading a flower garden is sort of like looking at the star cluster Pleiades: to see its full power you have to look out of the corner of your eye.  Looking at it directly only dims the glow. Despite its lack of articulation, my garden has a way of perpetually reminding me that things keep growing, and, in a very web-like manner, it helps me feel connected to people I can no longer see.

It was a great time for these flowers to appear. I needed the company. The boys are walking and beginning to talk, and I’d love to share these magical moments with my mother. I’d also like to ask her a few questions.  George – who is a very intense, passionate, high tempered child even at this age – sometimes perplexes me. My Dad says I used to be intense like that as a kid. Poor Mom, I think to myself. She was always so patient with me despite my temper.  I can see now that it really wasn’t easy. As my children grow and become more of their own person I am beginning to recognize how hard it can be to watch another person figure themselves out.  And they are only babies. Just wait until they are teenagers you are probably thinking.

When they get all upset and emotional I know George, and even sometimes Elijah, are not screaming at me. They’re screaming because they have so much they want to express but do not have the language to say it. They have so many places they want to go, but their legs  don’t yet know how to take him there. They want so badly to open and close bedroom doors, but in their excitement to do something so wonderfully adult-like, they overlook their brother’s fingers wedged in the door frame, or the baby gate, or the dryer door, or the dresser drawer. It’s a wonder these children have any fingers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love their intensity. I believe that as an adult this passion will serve them quite well as long as they learn how to channel it. In a world filled with so much apathy, I think babies natural born intensity can grow into a real gift for human and animal kind. But at this age it can sometimes overwhelm them. And me. When I was pregnant sometimes people would mention how hard it was going to be raising two babies. Let me tell you, they were right. I won’t lie. Having twins is wonderful, but it is hard work.

But as I always said, there is good hard and then there is bad hard. Watching Mom die was bad hard. George piercing my ear drum with one of his passionate outcries or Elijah having a meltdown because he closed his own fingers in the lid of the dog food container (don’t worry, he doesn’t eat the dog food… I don’t think)  is good hard. So I can deal. But even so, sometimes I’d just love to hear Mom tell me we will all get through it, fingers and minds intact.

Back to the flowers. It’s fall, and fall used to be my favorite season. I still like it, but it seems more mournful to me then it used to. All those bright trees are gorgeous, no doubt. But, after all, what makes them so beautiful is the fact that the leaves are dying. The whole thing just sits with me much differently than it used to, you know?  Until the grief gets easier, I prefer Spring.  Another thing is that in my mind my mom is directly connected to the concept of fall. She loved this time of year. She had many fall-themed earrings and pins and bracelets to prove it. I can still remember the gold leaf pin she wore pinned to her many blazers. And then there was  my second favorite pin, the jack-o-lantern, which she liked to wear with a black turtleneck.  She was all about the seasonal attire.

And I can remember the smells of chilli and sweet potatoes coming from the kitchen. She loved preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas; she loved taking drives to observe the changing of the leaves. Looking out at the mountains this afternoon from her gravesite, I knew if she were here she’d say “Look at the leaves! Oh, how beautiful!” And it wouldn’t be something she would say just to mark the time. She would mean it. Then she would say something about how amazing God is.

And, of course, my Mom died in the fall.  Tomorrow marks 2 years and one month since her passing. So now when the leaves start to change and the sun sets earlier and earlier, I think about her in colorful blazers and holiday pins, about her fluttering around the kitchen making cookies and cassaroles for people, about her excitedly discussing Thanksgiving plans. And then I also think about her last days and how she learned, for the first time since childhood, to let others take care of her.

I think one of these days I’ll learn to love fall again. After all, it’s the leaves that are dying, not the whole tree. The leaves fall to the ground and make the soil rich and strengthen the tree. But what my mind knows my heart has yet to digest. But that’s okay. Grief is teaching me that everything doesn’t have to always be okay. Sometimes it just isn’t. Ask George and Elijah and they’ll tell you that despite their utter joy over things like bath water and bananas, sometimes you have to just break down and cry when things don’t go as you think they ought to. And so often they don’t go as you think they ought to.

Back to the flowers again. I needed to trim the rosebush back for the winter. So I cut the two red roses, and could not get over how perfect they looked with this morning’s rain drops still clinging to them. If I were a good photographer I could have taken an upclose picture of them that would make a perfect backdrop for a cheesy eighties album cover. I cut the daisy too, and I put them in an empty jar that once held dog treats made by my wonderful friend Cass of Four Dogs Bakery. (As a quick aside, if you have a dog or know someone who does, you need to get some of these wonderful homemade treats. She makes them in her own kitchen and sells them in Russellville at her husband’s bike shop, Poppa Wheelies, on Arkansas Ave. She also sells at the Farmer’s Market.  Our dogs love them, and Elsie and Patchen are particularly happy to be eating local. My Mom loved little things like this. I guarantee you that if she were still living she would buy a bazillion little bags of these treats for all your dogs and give them to you as Christmas stocking stuffers. You know she would.)

I put the flowers in this jar partially because it was clean and partially because Mom liked Mason jars and so do I. To me there is nothing quite as beautifully simple as a fresh flower in a Mason jar.  I took these out to her grave and placed them next to the little pumpkin I had taken last week, the same kind she would have decorated her kitchen with this time of year. She loved those cheesy little things and would have several little gourds and pumpkins all around the house. It would smell like pies and potatoes and cinnamon candles.  And she’d probably take a few of those gourds and gently place them around my favorite holiday decoration of her’s, that decades-old wicker cornucopia that sat in the middle of our kitchen table year after year.  I used to play with that cornucopia a lot as a child, pretending it was a boat or space ship for my dolls. I remember her once explaining to me that another term for cornucopia was “horn of plenty,” a symbol of harvest and plenty.

For Mom and From Mom

Last post I mentioned how she always talked about how she had “peace that passes understanding.”  For those who knew her and have never had a chance to see her gravestone, I took this photo today that shows the verse inscribed in the stone.

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5 Responses to “The Communication of Flowers and Carotenoids (that stuff that turns the leaves orange)”

  1. Connie said

    Meredith,
    I so enjoyed reading this post. And yes, my garden has always talked to me. Some of my best memories are times with my Grandmother in her garden and yard. Also, I never see a blooming flower without thinking about my Mother, espcially a rose. I feel so connected to both of them when I’m ‘playing in the dirt’.

  2. Connie,
    Thank you so much! I’d love to hear all about your garden sometime. You are talking about your mom’s mother or Mama Mac? I’d love to hear more. I often think of Mamma too. She loved irises, and I never see one without thinking of how much she loved those deep purple ones.

  3. Cathy "Crunkles" said

    Oh mere-
    This was just beautiful.
    I loved reading it and I love you!

  4. […] The Communication of Flowers and Carotenoids (the Stuff That Turns the Leaves Orange). […]

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